Nursing is usually seen as a profession which cares for the physical needs of patients. Yet, it is a fact that the holistic health and wellness of a person depends on the state of both their physical and mental health, so in this article we shall put physical health on the sidelines for a bit, and explore how mental health and nursing are connected.

The challenges mental health nurses face

Mental health nurses are, naturally, the ones who have to deal most with psychology patients and observing their roles would offer the best example of the relationship between psychology and nursing.

The duties of psychiatric nursing differ slightly from usual nursing duties. For example, it requires competencies in physical and psychiatric assessment, coupled with good biopsychosocial knowledge and psychopharmacological competency. A nurse who specialises in mental health will be well-trained in evaluating complex psychiatric issues, substance abuse, physical needs and other problems of patients.

One of the major challenges of a psychiatric nurse is assessing and treating the psychosocial consequences of physical illness in patients. Thus, should a nurse decide to specialise in psychiatric nursing, the knowledge of psychology will be a major component of the training and duties involved.

Giving better emotional support to patients

Another example that aptly demonstrates the relevance of psychology to nursing is the provision of emotional support to patients and family members. In fact, holistic nursing care is considered to be complete only when a nurse can provide emotional support together with physical support.

While patients experiencing mental trauma will certainly require great emotional support, a patient who is physically ill will also have emotional needs that need to be met. For instance, a patient who has been through a leg operation may have insomnia due to uncomfortable feelings with his current condition, and may also experience stress, issues which will need to be addressed. Therefore, providing emotional support should be in line with providing physical support as both are essential for recovery and restoring one’s health. As the study of mind and behaviour, knowledge of psychology and mental health can help the nurse to improve the ability to provide emotional supports for individual patients.

An effective tool for better crisis management

Psychology in nursing can also be seen as an important tool in managing extreme situations. Nurses who are trained in the subject will be able to calm patients down effectively by using the appropriate body language, facial expressions, as well as verbal communication. These are also known as psycho-techniques. For example, an angry patient may rashly lash out at others or throw sharp objects. A staff nurse trained in this would be able to deal with the situation with more confidence and skill than without that training. By better understanding the rationale behind the patient’s actions and handle them in less confrontational manner, the situation is likely to end better for everyone involved.

As both mind and body contribute to the overall health of a patient, it is clear that mental health is deeply relevant to nursing. Even if the nurse does not wish to specialise in psychiatric nursing, some knowledge of psychology can be useful to the nurse in disseminating emotional support and using psycho-techniques while communicating with patients. In light of this strong connection, psychology plays a vital role in the work of the nurse, and it would be beneficial for all nursse to learn more about this. MIMS

Read more:
Pros and cons of working as a Psychiatric Nurse
Utilising nonverbal communication in the nurse-patient relationship
Nurses: 3 reasons to improve your interpersonal skills
Nurses: Handling patients with challenging conditions – part I
Nurses: handling patients with challenging conditions – part II

Nordqvist, C. (2015). What is psychology? What are the branches of psychology?
American Nurse Association. (n.d.). What is Nursing?